We suppose this is what we should expect from an illegal hookup. Why illegal? Because there is no legal alternative. Believe us, we’d be the first in line to sign up for a reliable and legit satellite dish, if one existed. But it doesn’t. We use Dream satellite TV out of the Philippines, only they don’t know about it. It’s the same service most people use here, we think. Last summer, tired of Chinese historical dramas and infomericals, we finally called one of the numbers on one of the hundreds of satellite fliers that overflowed from our mailbox, a husband and wife team showed up at our apartment, and she held on to his belt while he risked his life installing the satellite outside out our 13th floor window. We paid around RMB 1,600 — a one-time fee, they said. They warned us that sometimes service would would go out — the company in the Philippines, knowing that thousands (millions?) of people in China are using their service for free, will occasionally re-scramble their codes (or something like that) — but that wouldn’t be a problem, because all they need to do is get us a newly coded card to put in our box. They would do that free of charge, and the most we’d be left without satellite service would be a couple days. Two hundred bucks for lifetime satellite TV? With nothing more to pay … ever? Life was good. Fifty-two channels (Dream 890 is the plan we appear to have) … most of them in English. We even had a soft-core porn channel that seemed to be on an endless loop of tantric sex how-to videos and B-movies starring Kari Wuhrer (that channel has since been discontinued).
Life was good … for about two weeks. That’s when service went out the first time. We called for our free card, and found out it wasn’t free. It was a “special situation.” They needed RMB 300 this time. They promised it wouldn’t happen again. We ended up paying 100. A month or two later, another “special situation.” And so on and so on. Used to be service would last relatively uninterrupted (assuming no typhoons were rolling through) for a couple months or more before we had to go though the painful ordeal of haggling for a new card (which have never been free, by the way). Lately, however, service lasts a couple weeks at best. And we have given up on our satellite people. Last we talked to them they offered us a “more reliable” card for RMB 800. They would guarantee it for a year. But what if it doesn’t work? Do we go to the police and file a complaint against the people from whom we purchased an illegal satellite system? Of course not. As Mr. Szymzack, our high school track coach, might say: “You’re bending over for them! And they’re give you the old corn cob!” (He used to say we were giving him “the old corn cob” when he thought we weren’t practicing hard enough — or at least that is what we told our therapist.)
Anyway, we currently have “No Right,” and we are beginning to suspect it is not the people in the Philippines turning our service off — it is the people who control the cards (that’s our conspiracy theory, and we’re sticking to it). Two weeks from now maybe our rights will be restored. You never know. Every time we turn on our TV it’s like Christmas morning! And our black and blue screen is the big lump of coal. We know what you are thinking: “Quit being such a baby, Shanghaiist. Step away from the TV. Live a little. Go outside and enjoy some of that
We’re kind of hoping that a Shanghaiist reader out there has information that will help us (preferably before the New York Yankees/Baltimore Orioles game airs on ESPN Asia the morning of April 22). Like maybe there is a market in the city that sells nothing but reliable satellite cards. Or maybe there is another satellite service that actually works. Or maybe you know a guy who will take a piece of metal piping to our satellite guy’s legs. We’ll take any advice you have.
OK, back to staring at our TV screen.
 We have no idea if we spelled his name correctly.